Ark Valley music scene features Georgia rockers

Athens, Georgia fosters a legendary music scene that has produced world-famous bands like R.E.M. and Widespread Panic. Rock band Universal Sigh draws from this dynamic talent pool to produce the kind of music that keeps the band touring year-round, including three previous tours through Colorado and a stop at The Lariat in Buena Vista last December. The band returns to The Lariat for an 8:30 p.m. show Friday, Dec. 8.

“Our agent lives in Denver,” said multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Steve Terry. “We have the same agent as Cycles and The Jauntee,” bands that have also played The Lariat and Victoria Tavern in Salida. “We love it there. … We love the mountains, and the people are so hospitable and friendly.”

Guitarist-vocalist Pace Maynard agrees: “There’s a great appreciation of music there that you don’t get in big-city markets that are saturated with live music – so much positive energy and people that genuinely appreciate the music.”

Jones Maynard (drums) and Austin Parker (bass and vocals) round out the band, which took root in Atlanta where brothers Pace and Jones met Terry in high school. Terry recalled jam sessions with Jones and a bass player, who booked a gig for the trio even though they didn’t have a band name. “We added Pace the night before. … It was not terribly premeditated,” Terry laughed.

Eventually Terry and the Maynard brothers ended up attending college in Athens, where they met Parker and settled on the name Universal Sigh. “Athens is so supportive for musicians,” Pace said. “There are so many types of bands. All of our friends are in bands. It’s an inspiring place to make music. We get to play at the Georgia Theater, which is a famous music venue. We love it there. … Austin and I were in the music business program, and Dave Schools (founding member of Widespread Panic) was the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony.”

Thanks to the diverse music scene in Athens, Universal Sigh enjoys incredible opportunities for collaboration. “It’s not just bands in college,” said Pace. “There’s a cool jazz-jam scene – a community of people getting together and jamming on different nights. We end up collaborating with this community of musicians. It’s not terribly band-specific, but that’s a lot of fun.”

Pace talked about how these collaborations lead to live performances with a variety of talented musicians, including the members of Mister Tie Dye, “a nine-piece horn-driven band. That was a really fun collaboration. … We have horns on half our album,” a genre-crossing 2016 release titled Atoms & Void.

“We’ve played with both entire bands on stage together,” said Terry. Paul Nelson, bass trombone player for Mister Tie Dye, “has done a lot of horn arrangements for us. We used to collaborate a lot more, but we tour full-time, which makes it tough.”

With insightful lyrics and well-crafted songs that reveal influences like Radiohead, Snarky Puppy and Umphrey’s McGee, the band’s only full-length album showcases a wealth of inspired musical talent. Pace and Terry agree that much of the band’s inspiration comes from experiencing live performances in their younger days. “There’s nothing really like it. We’ve had so many incredible experiences seeing bands play. Performing also provided that experience, and we fell in love with that experience,” said Pace.

Terry also said he is also inspired by nature, hiking and the energy he experiences in the natural world.

“We’re excited to play in Buena Vista,” said Pace. “Court and Robbie are amazing, and The Lariat is such a nice room. And providing a place to stay is so appealing  way better than sleeping bags on the floor.”

Ark Valley Music

Holiday Highlights

7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7
Hazel Miller Band, SteamPlant

5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8
Jessie Thetford, Treeline Kitchen

5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8
Dave Mensch, The Lariat

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9
Roma Ransom, Deerhammer

8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 15
Pint & a Half, Benson’s Tavern

5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
Karl Jones, The Lariat

7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
Woodshed Red, SteamPlant

6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
Backyard Berserker, Soulcraft

8:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16
Atomga, The Lariat